(Editorial) – A month ago, Clint Dempsey was in hot water for a referee abuse incident. When suspensions were handed down by both MLS and the U.S. Open Cup, there were concerns about his participation in the 2015 Gold Cup. While he was called in to the team, Head Coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, stripped him of the Captain’s Armband.
Since then, Dempsey has answered the critics and dominated play offensively. Through three group stage matches, he had three goals and an assist; he directly contributed on all four goals the USMNT scored.
After the group stage, there were concerns about the Americans’ offense with Jozy Altidore‘s departure from the tournament. While a shorthanded Cuba team is hardly a great challenge, Dempsey delivered again with his first USMNT hat-trick (shall we call it a Deuce Trick?).
Dempsey sits at the top of the Golden Boot standings, with six goals. No other player has more than three. On points, he leads the tournament with 13. Andrés Guardado, Oribe Peralta, and Michael Bradley are tied for second, with six points each.
The numbers show that Dempsey is running away with the Golden Ball as one of the best players on the favorite team. An argument can be made for Bradley and, to a lesser extent, Guardado. The film reaffirms that Dempsey has been the Gold Cup’s best player.
Dempsey did get a bit lucky on his first goal of the tournament; he was positioned perfectly for the deflection off goalkeeper, Donis Escober. Dempsey did well on the finish.
His second goal came off a set piece on an excellent cross by Bradley; Dempsey was clinical with his header. The game was 1-0 and hanging in the balance. The second half was in a bit of a lull when suddenly the two best players for the USMNT made a play to ultimately secure the win. By 90-minute performance, Bradley was slightly ahead of Dempsey even though Dempsey had two goals.
The match against Haiti was a slog with a make-shift lineup. The lone goal came from great build up play. Dempsey had a perfect finish after a well-timed and well-placed run; it was that play that was the determining factor against an upstart Haitian team.
Against Panama, the U.S. was down 1-0 at half time after a rough first half. Dempsey came in for Chris Wondolowski and immediately changed the offense. He set up Bradley’s goal in the 55th minute. The USMNT looked much better offensively in the second half, and much of that was due to the creativity Dempsey brought off the bench.
Clint Dempsey has been the best player of the 2015 Gold Cup so far. Should the USMNT advance to the final, win the Gold Cup, and do so with Dempsey continuing to create, assist, and score, it will be no contest.
Dempsey deserves the Gold Cup Golden Ball. The real question is: Has he earned the Captain’s Armband back?